COLUMNS: Alberta company has variety of income sources from power plant

As I was driving into Williams lake on a perfectly clear day last Sunday there was a very noticeable smoke and vapour cloud.

As I was driving into Williams lake on a perfectly clear day last Sunday there was a very noticeable smoke and vapour cloud in the Glendale area.

For me it reaffirmed the seriousness of the proposal to burn rail ties at the APC power plant.

I think it is useful to  look at a similar situation in Whitecourt Alberta (population of 10,000  two hours north of Edmonton).  A 25 megawatt plant was constructed there 20 years ago.

The power plant is part of a complex (Miller Western Forest Products) which also includes a  lumber and pulp mill.

The Annual allowable cut (AAC) of two million cubic meters of logs supplies 50 per cent lumber, 40 per cent chips (that go to an adjacent pulp mill) and 10 per cent hog fuel (220,000 metric tons for the power plant) which is 10 minutes away.

The plant only burns clean hog fuel (no waste wood with paint or preservatives) and receives renewable energy credits (RECs) for their efforts.  As well as income from the electricity produced and the RECs, they sell ash to the farmers in the area as well as receiving a small amount for dealing with the waste wood.

I am sure the burning of rail ties at their facility would compromise most of these income sources.

The hog fuel produced (10 per cent) is considerably less than that in the Williams Lake situation. If we assume the power plant (APC) and the Pinnacle Pellet Plant (PPP) get all of their fibre needs from the Williams lake AAC (2.8 to 3.4  million cubic meters depending on what years are used)  it turns out to be approximately 23 per cent  (i.e. 800 thousand metric tons  (600 for APC and 200 PPP).

A higher percentage of Douglas Fir in the log mix may account for the higher hog fuel percentage or perhaps some chips destined for the pulp mills may go to the plants.

In previous articles, I have discussed estimates of roadside waste logging material.

With the reduced AAC roadside material could make up for the majority of the loss of mill residue with the biggest concern being the considerable haul distance of some  material. In Whitecourt additional residual wood waste brought in has to be within a 60-kilometre distance from the power plant or the trucking costs start to be uneconomical.

The authors of the WL TSA 2014 discussion paper  predict the reduced AAC will be closer to Williams Lake as the beetle killed pine in the western supply blocks will have been harvested.

There may also be considerable roadside waste material associated with the ongoing Douglas Fir bark beetle which is surrounding Williams Lake.

I am not saying that the APC and PPP are responsible for dealing with all of the roadside logging material but a certain percentage should be used by them.

Before we get committed to taking on a higher percentage of rail road ties we need to look at all options of dealing with the future impacts of the reduced AAC.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.

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